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Lucas Novac



Published: January 11, 2024

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star 6.0/10
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Hotspot Shield VPN Review – Is It Safe in 2024

Our team investigates the possibilities of VPNs that provide free plans. They are very distinctive, and the awareness of a somewhat separate provider can not give you even an approximate average estimation of other VPNs.

We investigate the possibilities of the VPN service from many angles in order to give our readers a precise imagination about them. Privacy policy, network capabilities, security technologies, and other stuff are gathered here. We hope our work will help you save time and select the best VPN for your needs.

  • Available for variety of platforms
  • Normal speed connection
  • They collect all possible personal data
  • Use of tracking technologies
  • Personal data sale
  • Subscription plan rough imposition
  • Does not work in countries with stringent restrictions to the free web usage
  • Android application makes device work incorrect.
  • No ability to download applications from the website
  • Chrome extension furnishes one location
  • Low bandwidth limit
  • One device connected

Hotspot Shield VPN Features

Every provider tends to show its best at a website’s forefront. Current VPN as well presents on its pages strong features that approve reliability and convenience. 

Very first information that we found on the main page informs us about software distributions for various popular platforms: 

  • Windows;
  • Android;
  • IOS;
  • MacOS;
  • Google Chrome;
  • Etc.

Further, the website shows Hotspot’s key features that form the main body of the software’s advantages.

Hotspot main features

Hotspot VPN furnishes military-grade encryption. To be honest, we have never heard previously about it, therefore we will try to discover what exactly they mean. World-wide content becomes accessible due to a robust servers’ network; over 3200 servers in 80+ countries form this vessel. 

The security component is equipped by their private innovation, ‘Hydra’. It is a protocol that should include lightning speed and iron protection. You can use five devices simultaneously, expect assistance from clock-around live support, and as it is described on the last item in the screenshot, you can believe in their privacy.

Our task is to explore the free version of the product and verify which features are available and which are designed for the paid plan. 

From the beginning, it is not clear, but at the end of the review, you will fathom the real state of affairs regarding Hotspot.

Privacy and Logging

To realize what is going on under the hood, you just need to patiently explore the privacy policy page. We examined each row and found plenty of pitfalls. You will see every point of our investigation supported by the screenshots. And we will start with the screen that was opened while launching an app on the PC.

Pop up on the desktop app the information about the VPN's data collection

It is such a weird explanation that does not inspire trust. In the first paragraph, they state that they do not log any online activity or associated data to users IP, device, or email. And immediately in the next paragraph, they write about the IPs they are collecting, payment information, and, optionally, email.

There were a few more things we did not like during iOS’s application discovery.

Hotspot iOS tracking activity

On the left part of the screenshot, Hotspot asks for permission to track your activity in parallel, with options to permit or deny. However, the right screenshot’s image illustrates that you even have no opportunity to decline the tracking. One little sentence under the “Continue” button says that within your iOS settings, you can change the permission. 

It is an absurd situation to use a VPN that promotes you twice to allow tracking activity without a discarding option, only with a mention about the ability to do it within the internal settings of the mobile phone. Possibly it is ‘the best’ marketing strategy we have ever seen.

But it is not the last thing compromising Hotspot as a provider that really cares about private data protection. We collected an entire assembly of facts from their privacy policy page.

Description from the website about  collected data

According to the information depicted on the screenshot, they collect your name, username, address, email, password, payment instrument details, date of birth, and even a social security number. There is a feeling that it is not a VPN but rather a government agency designed for tracking individuals.

But let’s go on and see what more we have found.

Technical data that they collect has a very sensitive sense

From this paragraph, you may observe the technical data that they collect: device identifier, browser type, device type and settings, your operating system, internet service provider (ISP) name, and carrier name. 

Very conspicuous point is about device identifiers, in other words, the device’s ID number. This is sensitive data that gives access to your precise location and other valuable details.

Tricky explanation from the privacy policy page

They like intricate explanations, and sometimes it is absolutely unclear what they are talking about. “Some services may allow you to register an account using a third-party account.” It is an extract from the image above. They are talking about some third parties where users can register their accounts, but we do not understand what relationship they have to these services.

Also, they say that some reputable members of the security industry who are in touch with Hotspot can provide them with personal information. Who are those reputable members? Users demand something very simple: download a VPN that will protect their private data. Do you want to care about “reputable” members who will collect your data?

There are too many screenshots confirming the facts of collecting personal data and information disclosure, so we will miss some images and share with you just a description.

Hotspot VPN also collects the URLs you visit, your timestamp, and your approximate location based on your IP. And except for their own extensive practice of gathering user data, they also embeded in their software code from external services that will also collect a bunch of your private data. 

Personal data retention explanation
Data retention

The screenshot above says that personal information is retained because of legal obligations or Hotspon’s legitimate interests.

Collecting domains that users visit
Domain collection

And again, an ambiguous state. On the screenshot above, you can read the second sentence, where it is said about any storing of identifiers, browsing, or another activity via the Internet. And immediately, the next sentence is about the logging of the domains that users visit.

In addition, they can sell your data.

Hotspot Shield sells user's personal information
Sell data

Sole fact of selling users data is enough to form an opinion about their methods of work.

The next illustration is very informative in itself. Read attentively this one paragraph.

VPN tracking tools embedded in the system

Nice, right? Their stack of tracking technologies suits the detective agency better than a VPN.

Final thought

Privacy policy page of Hotspot Shield’s VPN is an assembly of ambiguous statements. Several times we met paragraphs containing sentences with a directly controversial sense. At first, they affirm that they keep personal data private, and the next sentence describes what data they log, sell, or retain.

Now the approximate list of data they collect is:

  • Your name; 
  • Username; 
  • Address;
  • Email;
  • Password;
  • Payment instrument detail;
  • Date of birth; 
  • Social security number;
  • Device’s identifiers;
  • Geolocation;
  • Visited domains;

Also, they practice personal data selling and provide tracking technologies in their system.

I would be very soft to say that we do not recommend Hotspot Shield VPN as a reliable security provider. We definitely do not advise the current provider as a representative of the privacy protection realm.

Speed Tests – How Fast is Hotspot Shield VPN

Fast internet speed makes web exploitation convenient and efficient. The VPN architecture is built in such a way that it can affect the velocity index. Various VPNs are constructed with distinctive solutions; hence, the impact is also different. Some of them decelerate significantly, others influence internet service provider (ISP) speed with negligible loss, and certain VPNs may even increase speed.

We found a very confident and promising statement on the official website.

Statement from the website that Hotspot Shield VPN speed is the fastest
Fastest VPN verified by experts?

“World’s fastest VPN”—very interesting to see the results after the notorious experience with the privacy policy. Nonetheless, we conducted speed tests for all platforms and will demonstrate the results right now.

Investigation is divided into three subdivisions:

  • PS Test;
  • Browser Extension Test;
  • Mobile Test.

Generally, we practice checking VPNs for two locations: the US and one randomly chosen country from the European region. But this VPN provides a limited number of free locations, so we conducted the tests for all subdivisions just for the US and UK servers.

PC Test

Tests were done for the Windows and masOS operating systems. The first on the go is Windows.


HotspotShield speed test made on Windows for the US and UK servers
Windows speed tests

Upright image shows the results of the ISP. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 87.74 mbps;
  • upload speed is 84.72 mbps;
  • ping time is 2 ms.

Top-right image shows the performance of the US server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 28.43 mbps;
  • upload speed is 23.63 mbps;
  • ping time is 174 ms.

Download speed fell 68% below the ISP speed, and the upload speed was downgraded by 72%. Ping time has increased from 2 ms to 174 ms.

The bottom-right image shows the performance of the UK server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 85.43 mbps;
  • upload speed is 61.65 mbps;
  • ping time is 46 ms.

The download speed is close to the original speed, just 3% lower, and the upload speed lost 23%. The ping time increased from 2 ms to 46 ms.

Performance for the US and UK servers is divergent. The first one produced significant losses both for download and upload indexes. If you are on cellular internet, then it can fail you. As for the English server, everything is fine there. The download loss is so trivial that we can equate it to zero, and the upload index also demonstrates a not so palpable number.


VPN speed on macOS for the US and UK servers
MacOS speed test

Vertical image shows the results of the ISP. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 87.6 mbps;
  • upload speed is 48.1 mbps;
  • ping time is 3 ms.

Top-right image shows the performance of the US server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 46.8 mbps;
  • upload speed is 45.3 mbps;
  • ping time is 135 ms.

Download speed dropping is 68%, the upload speed decreased to 72%. Ping time has increased from 2 ms to 135 ms.

The bottom-right image shows the performance of the UK server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 60.9 mbps;
  • upload speed is 74.9 mbps;
  • ping time is 55ms.

The download speed declined by 30%, but the upload speed improved by 54%. The ping time increased from 2 ms to 55 ms.

US server demonstrated high-cost loss either for download and upload indexes. The UK server performed much better: the download index lost one-third of its capacity, but the upload speed has increased considerably.

Browser Extension Test

Hotspot Shield’s VPN was issued solely for the Google Chrome Browser and provides only the US location for free.

VPN connection speed on Chrome's extension for the US server
Chrome speed test

Upper image shows the ISP connection speed. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 83.31 mbps;
  • upload speed is 88.24 mbps;
  • ping time is 5 ms.

Bottom image presents the US server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 59.81 mbps;
  • upload speed is 45.48 mbps;
  • ping time is 114 ms.

The download speed loss is 28% lower than the ISP speed, and the upload speed is 48% lower. The ping time has increased from 2 ms to 114 ms.

Results are below average. In the case of mobile internet utilization, you may experience very slow traffic flow.

Mobile Test

Current VPN software includes applications for Android and iOS platforms. In a soon, we will see the results for either.


VPN speed on Android for the US and UK servers
Android speed test

The first image shows the results of the ISP. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 88.0 mbps;
  • upload speed is 80.2 mbps;
  • ping time is 2 ms.

The central image shows the performance of the US server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 48.3 mbps;
  • upload speed is 63.2 mbps;
  • ping time is 167 ms.

The download speed lost 29% from the initial indicator, and the upload speed downgraded by 21%. Ping time has increased from 2 ms to 167 ms.

The right image shows the performance of the UK server. The indexes are:

  • download speed is 77.1 mbps;
  • upload speed is 72.7 mbps;
  • ping time is 63 ms.

The download speed is 12% below the ISP speed index, and the upload speed fell by 9%. The ping time has increased from 2 ms to 63 ms.

US server produced worse results than the UK, however showed a strong everage output. The UK geo performed well. 

About Safety – How Secure is Hotspot Shield VPN?

Safety aspect goes hand in hand with privacy. If the protection technologies are weak, then privacy will be vulnerable by default. The ideation kernel of privacy policy can be very strong, but what is the point of it if the technical stuff that can not provide the necessary safeguard for ensuring privacy integrity?

As always, our task is to check the possibilities of the free version. We gather data from the applications and compose it for you in clear form.

On the example of macOS, we will start creating an imagination about security strength.

VPN Security options built in HotspotShield for macOS
Settings on the Apple desktop device

The protocol block offers four points:

  •  ‘Smart’ option automatically turns on some protocol, depending on the circumstances. The description says that it will be the fastest and most secure for your network. Considering that the overall protocol selection contains three items, it should not be a difficult choice.
  • Till now, we do not know what this Hydra protocol is. There is no description of this technology in terms of its origins. Only that, it is a very fast and very secure invention called “Hydra”. They did not explain what encryption it uses, or even the protocol that they are based on—nothing. It sounds very tremendous—’Hydra”.

In fact, it may be the simplest PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) protocol that is not secured nowadays with the MPPE (Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption) and some additions from Hotspot. And from another side, it may be something really decent, but no one knows about it except for them.

  • IKEv2 (IPSec) is a modern and fast protocol with strong encryption algorithms and enhanced security. It can maintain a stable connection while switching between networks (mobile and WiFi as an instance).
  • WireGuard is also a top-notch, advanced protocol. It uses state-of-the-art cryptographic algorithms (Curve25519, ChaCha20). It provides a convenient adjustment process. It is quick and sustainable.
  • Bypass VPN switcher and Route via VPN switcher are the analogs of the split tunneling function. You can decide what apps and websites will be routed through the VPN and what will be directed to the ISP network. But these “Bypass VPN” and “Route VPN” features work only in combination with their ‘Hydra’ protocol. There is nothing innovative here.
  • VPN Special Features field is just an assembly of characteristics without functional possibilities.

Windows’s applications keep in disposal the same features set with a “Kill Switch” option in addition. But suddenly they made available IKEv2 (PISec) for the premium subscription here.

Mobile apps for Android obtain almost the same possibilities with a few distinctions: both apps have  “Kill Switch” and “Split Tunneling” options. Android’s app does not have at all the IKEv2 (IPSec) protocol, and for iOS, it is accessible for payment.

Google Chrome extension has a completely different set of features.

Security settings of the HotspotShield VPN for Chrome
Chrome preference setsuit

Chrome’s extension does not possess primary security settings, but there are seven secondary security traits. We do not know the identities of these options or their technical bases because there is no explanation about them anywhere. So we will broadcast how Hotspot positions it.

  • Sword
    • Feed web trackers fake web activity to keep your real web activity private.
  • Tracker Blocker
    • Enable or disable analytic trackers (such as Google) during your Hotspot Shield session.
  • Ad blocker
    • Enable or disable ad blocking in the browser during your Hotspot Shield session.
  • Malware blocker
    • Enable or disable the ad malware blocker in the browser during your Hotspot Shield session.
  • Cookie blocker
    • Enable or disable web cookies during your Hotspot Shield session.
  • Bypass the local network
    • Bypass local resources. Such as web sites located on internal network localhost, etc.
  • WebRTC blocker
    • WebRTC discovers IPs via the Interactive Connectivity Establishment (ICE) protocol. Enable this feature to prevent that.

We have observed all the security features immanent in free applications. We see that they have nice possibilities that are available in almost every product. Not very abundantly supplied, but enough to care about basic concepts of security measures.

Desktop Apps

We will start this block with a macOS application. We warn you that you can not download the application from their website. The trick is that you will see the button “Start free trial” and will be directed to the subscription page, where you will see a proposal to fill in your credit card details. After the trial period, funds will automatically be written off.

We were looking for the ability to just download a free application and did not find it. Interestingly, where is it hidden? On our fortune, Apple has App Store and installed it there. 

They chose a very manipulative and user-unfriendly approach for the consumer.


After the app installation, the first thing you will see is a login window. Select the preferable options and go on.

Login window on macOS VPN
Login window after installation

A few words about the main screen and visual interface of the current  application.

Main screen of the macOS's HotspotShield
Application’s main screen

Design is quite simple. It contains the menu bar on the left and two interactive elements in the main area:

  • Turn on/off button;
  • Location field with a selection of servers within. 

In general, that is all that is needed to know about it.


Installation of this VPN is quite a sophisticated task. Barely during an hour, we were trying to comprehend how to download the free application from their site; it is a simple and common option. And all in all, we got it occasionally.

As well as with macOS, there is no offer on the website to download the app, just a button ‘Start free trial’, which leads to the subscriptions page where you need to provide the credit card details. They roughly compel consumers to pass the subscription form.

After the whole website had been monitored, we decided to download it from the Microsoft Store. But before that, we managed to download Chrome’s extension from the website, where we met a pop-up with a proposal to download the app for Windows.

It was a lyric intro, and we are moving towards the app itself.

Main screen of the Windows's HotspotShield
Windows application, main screen

The visual composition differs with a menu bar; here it is lean. However, there are no more distinctions.

Mobile Apps

Main screen of the Android VPN
Main screen

Installation procedure is simple, as is the visual interface. The screen encompasses five interactive elements:

  • Turn on/off button;
  • Home screen icon;
  • An icon visualized as a diamond that includes subscription plans;
  • Location icon;
  • Account preferences icon.

Nothing is complex or special. While exploring the app, we encountered a pop-up.

HotspotShield notification about time left
Android application, timeleft pop-up

Free version has a meaningful drawback: the bandwidth is limited by 15 minutes of utilizing the app. You are obligated to watch an ad if you want to process another session. And who knows if the Kill Switch option will reflect in this case? VPN connection will fail, and your sensitive data may be disclosed.

Also, a meaningful drawback is that the app impacts Android’s system too much. The phone glitches and works with lags.


Application is very similar to the Android brother, and there are no other prominent features for discussion. The device works normally, as usual.

Browser Extensions

Extension for the Chrome browser do not obtain specific options distinctive from other distributives.

Main screen of the Hotspot Shield browser's extension
Chrome  extension, main screen

Extension places on its main screen three interactive elements:

  • Hamburger menu icon
    • Contains general menu options.
  • Settings menu icon
    • Contains a set of secondary security options.
  • Turn on/off button.

The bandwidth for the free version is just 250 mb per day.

Work in Highly Restricted Countries

We did not find any information on the website or issued products regarding this query.

Server’s locations

Desktop and mobile apps provide five locations in three countries for free:

  • US
    • Three locations
  • Singapore
  • UK

Browser extension offers one US server for free.

What Bonuses Does the Paid Version Offer, and How Much Does It Cost?

Hotspot Shield’s website contains information about the advantages of the paid version.

Hotspot's subscription plans
Subscriptions compare table

If you are ready to pay $2.99 per month, then you will get:

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • No ads
  • 3,200+ servers in 70+ countries
  • Connect up to five devices.
  • 24/7 live tech support

About Support

Free version does not predict live support. You may use a robust FAQ section divided into logical blocks.

Hotspot Shield VPN Review: Final Verdict

Overall impression of Hotspot Shield is primarily unsatisfying. The privacy they offer is fully compromised: they collect almost all personal valuable information and collaborate with third parties who as well collect your data. Their system uses tracking technologies, and in addition, we found out that they may sell your data. It is the worst policy that we have seen before.

The security measures are nice, but what is the sense of them if their privacy policy does not care about confidentiality at all?

We do not like how they promote their subscription plans. The first time we met such a situation when it was impossible to download the application from the provider’s website. You are always redirected to the subscription page, where you have to fill in credit card details in order to continue the procedure. They chose an intrusive, impolite, and rough method to make users get the subscription.

Applications have limited bandwidth and only three available countries for free. They talk very vaguely and loudly about their innovative ‘Hydra’ protocol: the fastest on the market, the most secure… Nevertheless, there is no information about its origin or technical base. 

Also, a remark about them being the fastest on the market: during our speed tests, we did not feel it. There are no objectives for which the speed is very low, and in the majority of cases, it is not bad. However, we saw better performance from other vendors.

We opened the preferences of the cookie pop-up on their website and looked at what we found.

Website's cookie pop-up with turned on Share or Sale of Personal Data switcher
Hotspot website’s cookie pop-up.

The preference that allows sharing and selling your personal data was turned on by default.

We do not recommend Hotspot Shield VPN as it has an entire package of compromising facts. Only if you need to get some content without any demand in privacy, then try it, but the bandwidth boundaries will not let you enjoy a lot.